EARTH DAY: Farm owner: ‘A slow rise in springtime temps is good’

Courtesy photo WMUR Meteorologist Kevin Skarupa, reporting 5-7 a.m. on WMUR during News 9 Daybreak and later on News 9 at Noon, recently said that he tells listeners at schools that he visits that New Hampshire is lucky in comparison to other regions of the nation for it has thus far no volcanic eruptions and no tsunamis.

Erratic behavior is not constrained to humans. Mother Nature could have some snits of her own to deal out this spring. Locals may be holding their breath and their garden rakes in hopes of a season sans any blip of meteorologic violence.

Shawn Jasper, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, notes that this spring thus far is proceeding in a relatively normal fashion but change is always a possibility.

“We haven’t had that burst of spring we did a couple years ago,” Jasper said. “The peaches and apples were budding and suddenly a cold snap came and destroyed them.”

New England’s weather legacy includes some massive disasters, easily accessed online. The New England Historical Society reports vast devastation that followed the “Great New England Hurricane” of 1938. The “Great Vermont Flood” of 1927 took out 1,285 bridges as 84 lives were lost. A 1947 tragedy in Maine caused by severe drought from 108 days with scant rain resulted in the “Great Maine Fires” that burned 220,000 acres and resulted in 16 deaths with thousands homeless.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a scientific agency within the Department of Commerce, tracks data related to weather and climate events. The agency notes an annual average of around 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and 1,300 tornadoes, along with two Atlantic hurricanes and other ugly phenomena.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture Shawn Jasper addresses beekeepers at the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association spring conference in Bedford during a gathering whose participants are well attuned to Jasper’s mission to support and promote agriculture and serve consumers and businesses for the benefit of public health, environment and economy.

Meteorologist Kevin Skarupa, reporting 5-7 a.m. on WMUR during News 9 Daybreak and also on News 9 at noon, earned his meteorology degree from Lyndon State College in Vermont. He taps the expertise daily, as severe weather makes its transcontinental voyage toward his desk.

New Hampshire seems to fare better, said Skarupa. “As the school children always point out to me when I visit, we’ve never had a tsunami, or a volcanic eruption.”

Vegetables, flowers, trees and grasses currently are signaling with color and fragrance their lure to honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators. It is the visitations from bloom to bloom that distribute pollen – the cross-fertilization that launches fruiting.

Depot Farm Stand & Garden Center & Gift Shop, on Daniel Webster Highway, in Merrimack, is a summer haven for New Hampshire peaches – plump, juicy orbs that trigger saliva squirts with every bite.

Disappointment wracked buyers in 2017 when they headed for the peach bins and were told by Steve Luce, co-owner with his wife, Kathy, and son, Stephen, that the fruit was from Iowa.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON A supply of local honey, produced by Hillside Apiaries & Beekeeping Supplies and available at Depot Farm Stand & Garden Center & Gift Shop, in Merrimack, is a golden commodity rendered by honey bees, the only variety of around 250 types of bees found in New Hampshire that makes honey, a sweet yield that equals from one worker bee in her lifespan of six weeks the equivalent of one-twelfth of a teaspoon, according to Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association (MVBee.org) and many other sources.

“There won’t be any peaches from New Hampshire,” Luce told them. “The cold snap in the spring killed all the blossoms.”

Luce suggests covering in-ground plants with inverted brown-paper grocery bags or lengths of fabric when a killing frost is predicted. The last killing frost date for Greater Nashua is May 9, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, founded in 1792.

Regional beekeepers also always are vigilant for erratic weather conditions. Experts agree that honeybees in their hives can tolerate cold, for they will cluster together in a sphere with the queen bee at the center of the scrum. The worker bees vibrate their wings to maintain an interior hive temperature of around 95 degrees when outdoor air is around 44 degrees, according to many online sources, including, “Physics for Beekeepers; Temperature in the Hive.”

Luce and his family, operators of the farm stand for nearly 30 years, carry local honey, a wide variety of gift items and locally sourced cheeses, along with some frozen meats from Merrimack’s Miner Family Farm and a splendid expanse of vegetables, perennials, annuals, flowering bushes and herbs.

Luce said the rich bounty generated by the honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators – including birds, bats, flies and wasps – also depends upon doses of sun and rain applied in moderation.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON White potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions, as seen here at Depot Farm Stand & Garden Center & Gift Shop, in Merrimack, are among the root vegetables that are popular choices to grow for those with limited space who may find that planting a variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs in containers on decks, patios and in greenhouses may provide enjoyment that is free of woodchucks and deer.

“It is not the cold but it’s the spurts of heat and cold that are bad,” Luce added. “A slow rise in springtime temps is good.”

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Depot Farm Stand & Garden Center & Gift Shop already is ablaze with color as the season's first offerings of spring flowers and veggies nurtured in temperate weather are tended here by Steve Luce, whose wife, Kathy, and son, Stephen, are the triad of success behind nearly 30 years at the Merrimack business, one that is a regional destination for green-thumbers, and wannabes.